[ISEA2011] Paper: Richard Vickers & Francesco Proto – Cityscapes: Exploring the spirit of urban identity


We know a great deal about the problems of contemporary cities: their total lack of flexibility makes of them merely remnants of the very modernization they were meant to lead. However, there is precious little concern for those whom such spaces were built to serve. How do people experience the city? How do they cope with its complexity, size and, most poignantly, the isolation it engenders? This research is framed to uncover how people draw meanings from the built environment and how, in an act of reciprocity, the latter underpins their identity.

The goal is to develop an original analysis of the role of contemporary cities in shaping and supporting western democracies as achieved by means of an innovative interdisciplinary approach: the interpolation between cinema and architecture. A series of short films will be the final research output, shot in significant metropolitan areas around the world. The first case study is the city of Rome as reinterpreted in a trilogy of films exploring its outstanding relevance to the history of architecture and the contemporary debate.

This research is set to determine exactly what makes contemporary cities tick from the perspective of generic public engagement. The aims are to identify critical issue and illustrate them through visual means. 3 short films – “Consuming Culture” (20’), “Visual Noise” (20’) and “Historical Limbo” (20’) will be produced in order to investigate 3 different aspects inherent to the first city at issue – Rome, the issues being: mass tourism, surveillance/surveyance, the past/present continuum.

Tapping into the West’s highly sophisticated appreciation of visualization (i.e., the importance of images for mastering reality), architectural issues will be therefore interpolated with the most sophisticated visual means: cinema. This would not only break the impasse affecting current architectural debate, but also furnish new opportunities to study, understand and improve the complexity of everyday urban life. An innovative, multi-disciplinary approach has therefore been set in place in the form of experimental films, that will be shot in order to grasp and bring to the fore the overlapping between fantasy and reality in the beholder’s mind.

  • Richard Vickers is a Principal Lecturer at the University of Lincoln, School of Media in the United Kingdom. He previously worked as a freelance photographer and designer, before becoming interested in the possibilities of interactive multimedia in 1994. The emerging digital technologies had an immediate impact on his work as a photographer and he was an early exponent of the ‘digital darkroom’. He gained industry practice as a multimedia producer, working on a broad range of websites and interactive multimedia projects for commercial clients and arts organisations, before moving into lecturing full time. Richard is a practicing new media artist, digital media producer and design consultant.
  • Dr. Francesco Proto is a lecturer in Architecture, Visual Culture and Critical Theory at Lincoln University, UK. His investigation on social extreme phenomena involves collaborations with either independent or academic artists and film-makers, his videos on modern metropolis being exhibited at the Venice Architectural Biennale. His research approach is multidisciplinary and includes an expertise on art history/criticism, cinema and pyschoanalysis (Slavoj Zizek) and contemporary French thought – notably Baudrillard and Lacan. Francesco is currently working at the creation of an international network for the visual exploration of urban city life.

Full text (PDF) p. 1968-1971